Pep Guardiola hails ‘incredible’ Stefan Ortega as Man City close on title

Pep Guardiola paid tribute to Manchester City’s back-up goalkeeper Stefan Ortega after a 2-0 win at Tottenham and claimed his “incredible save” could be the difference in the Premier League title race.

Guardiola insisted before the match that City’s prospects of a fourth consecutive league championship would be over if they failed to win at Spurs.

After a disjointed first-half display they managed to improve and went ahead after 51 minutes when Kevin De Bruyne got in behind the Tottenham defence to tee up Erling Haaland for a tap-in.

It was far from straightforward for City afterwards, though, with keeper Ederson forced off with 69 minutes played after he collided with Cristian Romero, but his replacement Ortega stepped up to deny Son Heung-min when he was sent through one-on-one in the 86th minute.

Six minutes later Haaland tucked away a spot-kick for his 38th goal this term, after Jeremy Doku had been brought down, to send City two points clear of Arsenal ahead of Sunday’s final day.

“How is a team a team? Because of Ortega’s save. Otherwise Arsenal are champions,” Guardiola admitted.

“That is the reality, the margins are so, so tight.

“Do you know how many times Son punished us in the last seven, eight years? Can I tell you how many goals he scored against us with Harry Kane?

“Oh my God, and I said ‘not again,’ but Stefan makes an incredible save. It was amazing but he has this talent.

“In the one against one, he is one of the best keepers I have ever seen in my life. Stand up, don’t go down and he is so, so, good.

“Playing FA Cup, Carabao Cup, even this season Ederson had four times setbacks for injuries and always he was so reliable.

“He is an incredible keeper so the club and our trainer made an incredible decision to bring him here.”

A chunk of the pre-match talk centred on whether the home crowd would get behind their team, given rivals Arsenal’s position in the title race.

But Guardiola added: “All the game they (Tottenham) were incredibly aggressive, so I suffered from minute one.

Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline
Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline (Adam Davy/PA)

“The people suspect, ‘no, I’m not going to win, we don’t want to give the title to Arsenal,’ it was completely the opposite.”

Guardiola quickly turned his focus to Sunday’s visit of West Ham, where a victory will ensure his team clinch an unprecedented fourth Premier League crown in a row.

“Now? I am tired,” he reflected.

“Relax and tomorrow start to think about West Ham. It is a pleasure to depend on (ourselves) for the last game against a contender like Arsenal.

“Now, (Mohammed) Kudus, (Jarrod) Bowen, (Michail) Antonio, (James) Ward-Prowse, (Tomas) Soucek, set-pieces, channels. And think about that, focus perfectly and think about it like we live with Aston Villa (last season).

“The last (defeat) was sixth of December. We are here and we have to win one more game to retain the title.”

Ederson was forced off due to a swollen eye, which provoked a furious reaction by the Brazilian goalkeeper on the touchline.

Ederson, centre, throws his gloves down after being substituted
Ederson, centre, throws his gloves down after being substituted (Adam Davy/PA)

“I understand he wants to play, I understand,” Guardiola admitted.

Spurs boss Ange Postecoglou cut a frustrated figure after their faint hopes of a top-four finish were ended.

“Disappointed to lose. I thought it was a tight game. Big moments for both teams, which they capitalised on and we didn’t,” Postecoglou said.

“Ultimately if you want to win those games you’ve got to take the big moments. You’ve got to be disciplined and it’s fair to say it’s one of the areas we have let ourselves down in all year.”

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